Dr Unwin’s winning formula for fitness and health

Dr Unwin
Proof that you can eat low-carb AND run…

Hello, I am David Unwin, another GP interested in the low-carb approach to helping my patients with type two diabetes.

My work formed the basis of an article published in the March 2014 edition of Practical Diabetes. ‘Low carbohydrate diet to achieve weight loss and improve HbA1c in type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes: experience from one general practice’.

I am not a diabetic, but have been on the diet for about two years now. I started it as a gesture of support for my patients but find I am more alert and need less sleep on it. Surprisingly it seems to help me run faster too! I recently finished a 10 K road run in less than 46 minutes, my best time for years.

Since writing the article in March, my practice has been given a small grant which means we have now helped 37 people with type two diabetes. Interestingly, the results are very similar to our original cohort including improvements to cholesterol, despite a diet higher in fat which makes one wonder…


Diabetics have long been exhorted to give up sugar and encouraged to take in complex carbohydrate in the form of the starch found in bread and pasta (especially if ‘wholemeal’). In fact, bread should be seen as concentrated sugar which explains why it has a higher glycaemic index than table sugar itself.

As there are no essential nutrients in starchy foods and diabetics struggle to deal with the glycaemic load they bring, we question why they need form a major part of their diet at all.

The recent increase in screening in general practice along with epidemic of ‘central obesity’ is revealing large numbers of pre-diabetics and diabetics (diabesity). At a time when there are questions about drug safety, which diet is best is of particular importance.

Many patients are already experimenting with the ‘low carb’ approach as it is so widely advocated on the internet. We wanted to see how effective and well tolerated it was.

A series of 19 type 2 diabetics and pre-diabetics volunteered to go on a low carbohydrate diet backed up with ten-minute one to one sessions with a GP or practice nurse, and regular group education.

After seven months only one had dropped out, of the rest all had significant weight loss (average 8.63 Kg) and the average HbA1c was down from 50.68 to 39.9 mmol/mol (6.7% to 5.7%).

Despite the higher fat intake on this diet the cholesterol dropped and liver function improved for nearly all participants.

We conclude this approach is easy to implement, brings rapid weight loss and improvement in HbA1c using a diet that the great majority of patients find easy to live with.

You can find the full article at Practical Diabetes.

Living with a Carb Addict

Y’know that perfectly sensible advice they give you when embarking on any kind of diet; the suggestion that you clear out all temptation from your house?

Willpower is finite. See, most of us associate willpower with the kinds of steel-willed folks who force themselves out of bed at five am for that brutal bootcamp class before going to work, or the kind of person who always, always says no to cake, or never drinks more than one small glass of wine.

Willpower is much, much more than that, however. You need willpower for a lot of things in life. Getting up on a cold, winter morning to go to work (instead of phoning in sick, say), or managing to keep your mouth zipped shut when your annoying work colleague begins her daily litany of woes.

These everyday things require willpower so it is no wonder it runs out quickly – and no wonder that here at the Diabetes Diet we advise you to keep your house carb-clear if possible, so you don’t have to waste willpower on battling with the bread bin.

But then, I live with a carb addict.

He’s a West of Scotland man. Normal practice for him is to eat lasagne with chips (eeks, I exclaim, double carbs!). In fact, he tells me, in an ideal world, it would be lasagne, chips AND garlic bread.

(And presumably a nap afterwards.)

There is no way on earth this gent is going to put up with a house that contains no bread, no potatoes and no pasta.

Bread, potatoes and pasta aren’t tempting foods to eat in themselves. Heck no, plain bread without butter? Potatoes that aren’t fried, or also adorned with the glorious goldeness that is butter? Boiled pasta and nothing else? A big bowl of steamed rice? Not so nice and not nearly as tempting and easy to over-devour as a family-size packet of crisps.

So we compromise by keeping the house free from cakes, biscuits and chocolates – and most of the time, we don’t keep crisps or sweets in it either. (And certainly nothing that comes in a purple wrapper…).

Other than that, I cope by serving up my food without the accompanying potatoes or rice, and muttering from time to time about the folly of double carbs. Diet is a personal thing, and your health your own responsibility to a certain extent.

My West of Scotland carb addict must make his own decisions!